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Examining what 16 British women, radical and conservative, famous and notorious, wrote about their sex in the 1790s, this text offers a comprehensive survey of what women thought about love, sexual desire, women as victims, marriage, separate spheres and engagement in work, politics and society, gender, female abilities, sensibility and genius. It investigates how contemporary reviewers divided these writers into "unsex'd" and "proper" as well as the issue of whether they attempted to exclude women from certain kinds of writing. Revealing the depth of female complaint, William Stafford contends that women did not passively submit, conservative and radical alike, but sought to extend their sphere of activity, to reform men, challenge gender stereotypes and propose that a woman should be a self for herself and her God, rather than for her husband. Texts studied include material by Wollstonecraft, Hays, Macaulay, Wakefield, Edgeworth and More; historical writings by Williams; and prose fiction by Robinson, Radcliffe, Inchbald, Fenwick, Smith, West, Hamilton and Burne.
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William Stafford is Professor of History at the University of Huddersfield.
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